Company, director fined after worker injured in crush incident

Tuesday, 25 January, 2022

Company, director fined after worker injured in crush incident

A brick manufacturing company and its director have been convicted and fined more than $50,000 after an employee was seriously injured in a forklift accident.

Enviroflame Firelogs (Australia) Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to one charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing, so far as was reasonably practicable, to provide a working environment that was safe and without risks to health by failing to reduce or eliminate the risk of powered mobile plant colliding with pedestrians. The company was fined $40,000 and ordered to pay costs of $5222. Company Director Frederick Coulter pleaded guilty to one charge under the Act for failing, as director, to take reasonable care, and was fined $7500.

The incident occurred in July 2019, when an employee was crushed between the forklift and a pallet that was against a wall. Coulter, who was operating the forklift, initially reversed and hit a hydraulic ram leaning against the wall. He then drove the forklift forward and asked the employee to pick up the ram he had just hit. As the employee was doing so, Coulter reversed the forklift into the man, pinning him and stalling the forklift. The employee suffered musculoskeletal injuries and underwent surgery after the incident. At the time of the incident, Coulter did not hold a valid forklift licence.

An investigation carried out by WorkSafe Victoria found that there was no form of traffic management in place to prevent collisions between forklifts and pedestrians. WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said there was no excuse for manufacturing workplaces to be operating without traffic management systems.

“If sites don’t have proper systems in place to prevent machinery and pedestrian collisions, the risk of serious injury or even death is dangerously high. In this terrible case, we’ve seen that risk eventuate. WorkSafe won’t hesitate to prosecute employers who fail in their duty to maintain a workplace that, as far as is reasonably practicable, is free of risk to health and safety,” said Dr Beer.

WorkSafe Victoria advises that employers using mobile plant should ensure that a traffic management plan is in place for pedestrians and powered mobile plant, and that it is reviewed and updated where appropriate. Pedestrians must be separated from moving machinery, with an effective communication system in place between operators, transport contractors and ground staff. Signage must be in place, along with barriers, where appropriate. Employers are also advised to identify and control any visibility issues, particularly if the lighting is poor. Employers must also ensure that workers operating equipment have the appropriate high-risk work licences, and that the machinery and vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained by a suitably qualified person. Employees and health and safety representatives must also be consulted about health and safety issues.

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